Protesters in Maple Creek, Sask., ‘infuriated’ by transfer of Tori Stafford’s killer to healing lodge

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Penny Steinkey had planned to travel to Calgary to see her grandchildren for Thanksgiving. Instead, she said she’ll spend her weekend at home in Maple Creek, Sask., protesting on behalf of another child — Tori Stafford.

« Because Tori doesn’t have that — I can give up a weekend for her, » she said of the eight-year-old, brutally raped and murdered in 2009.  

Steinkey was outraged when she heard that Stafford’s killer, Terri-Lynne McClintic, had been transferred to Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge on Nekaneet First Nation, located about 30 kilometres southeast of Maple Creek.

She and her friend Karri Williams have spent the past week walking along Maple Creek’s main street to protest McClintic’s transfer, and she says she’ll continue to protest until she is heard.

‘She’s not ready for that place’

« This woman, in my opinion, should be serving her time behind bars, not earning her way out of society after nine years of being in prison for murdering, raping and torturing an eight-year-old girl, » Steinkey said.

« I’m concerned about everybody that lives anywhere near this woman, every person that works out there, every inmate that’s out there, » she said, adding she also worries for the safety of the children of female inmates who may visit the healing lodge.

McClintic is currently serving a life sentence for her role in Tori’s death, and is not eligible for parole until 2031. In December, she was transferred to the healing lodge run by Correctional Services Canada.

Tori Stafford was eight years old when she was abducted and killed. (Dave Chidley/Canadian Press)

Williams said she was « infuriated » when she learned McClintic had been living at the lodge for nine months, without anyone in the area being notified.

« You don’t send a murderer, what she’s done, to a place of healing. She’s not ready for that place, that’s for sure. »

Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge does important work for its inmates, say protesters, but they believe that Terri-Lynne McClintick has not done the work to be transferred to the healing lodge. (Correction Services Canada website)

Both women said they respect the rehabilitation work taking place at the healing lodge. They see the inmates from time to time, raking leaves or picking up garbage in Maple Creek, and describe them as part of the community.

They shipped her off to the farthest, most remote place they could find. And they don’t give a damn about us that live here.– Penny Steinkey, Maple Creek resident

« We love the healing lodge, » said Steinkey. « We all believe in it. But they have to work to get here. »

Williams and Steinkey said they have tried to contact Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale about their concerns, but have only received a form letter in response.

However, they say they are working with their Conservative MP and their neighbours at Nekaneet First Nation, who share their concerns about transfer.

« They shipped her off to the farthest, most remote place they could find, » said Steinkey.

« And they don’t give a damn about us that live here. »

Transfer sets off political clash

McClintic’s transfer has sparked heated debate and insults in the House of Commons.

The Opposition Conservatives have demanded the government reverse the decision, while Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decried the Conservatives as « ambulance-chasing politicians, » and said his government respects the independence of the judicial system.

In response to questions on Friday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said he takes public concerns « very, very seriously, » which is why he’s asked Corrections Canada to review its policies and procedures leading to the transfer.  

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, right, has ordered the commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada to review a decision to send convicted killer Terri-Lynne McClintic, left, to an Indigenous healing lodge. (Canadian Press photos)

« This is not just a recent set of decisions. The decision-making flow goes back to 2014, » he said.

The review is meant to ensure public safety and that justice is carried out in all cases, not just in this particular instance, said Goodale.

He acknowledged the concerns expressed by the chief of Nekaneet First Nation, who said the band was « shocked » by the transfer. Chief Alvin Francis said that six years ago, his people lost any say over which prisoners were sent to the minimum-security lodge on its land.

« Where Indigenous values are engaged, then there needs to be ample consultation and advice and an ongoing role, » Goodale said, adding he expected this to be addressed in the review.

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‘From a father to a father’: Tori Stafford’s dad reaches out to Trudeau over transfer of daughter’s killer

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Tori Stafford’s father says he wrote a letter to the prime minister about the transfer of his daughter’s killer to an Indigenous healing lodge in an attempt to reach Justin Trudeau as a father, not a politician.

« I was basically just trying to get him to, in a sense, have a feeling from a father to a father as opposed to being a politician, » said Rodney Stafford. « I wanted to see if I could kind of touch him a little. It’s not about politics. »

MPs defeated a Conservative motion Wednesday to overturn the transfer of child-killer Terri-Lynne McClintic from the Grand Valley Institution for Women near Kitchener, Ont., to the Okima Ohci Healing Lodge for Aboriginal Women on Nekaneet First Nation in southern Saskatchewan.

Stafford was in Ottawa during that debate. He said he wanted politicians to see his face, to see that he is still grieving.

But he insisted this is not a political issue for him. « Somebody clearly messed up, made a mistake and I’m just trying to get this mistake reversed. »

Stafford spoke to Vassy Kapelos, host of CBC News Network’s Power & Politics. Here is a transcript of that conversation:

How are you doing?

For the most part OK.

What have the last few weeks been like for you?  

Pretty rough. Just knowing the injustice going on kind of brings you down, but at the same time seeing the nation’s support in knowing that there’s an issue here it kind of brings you back up.

How did you find out about the transfer originally?

I had originally found out about the transfer, I guess it’d be a little over a month and a half ago. I was talking to my mom regarding an unrelated issue with Terri-Lynne. She was requesting something else, so Service Canada was attempting to get in contact with me. I contacted Service Canada and, during that phone conversation regarding day passes for Terri-Lynne, the woman had mentioned that her upcoming one was going to be in Saskatchewan.

Why? She’s in Kitchener? I couldn’t understand. She said, « No Terri-Lynne was moved in December of last year. » Right from then on I was just like, ‘No this isn’t right, it’s not right.’ We just started making some noise and it’s grown into what seems to be a pretty big power.

So there was no notification. You just had called on another matter and that’s when you came to know what happened?

Correct.

What are you doing here in Ottawa? What message are you bringing here?

Me coming up to Ottawa today was basically for me to get away and to kind of familiarize myself with Parliament. Just kind of get a little bit of a better understanding of what goes on inside. We had a pretty good tour.

You were telling me earlier that you wanted a chance to be in front of politicians more?

Another reason was, I wanted to get inside Parliament and just kind of get my face inside there and see if maybe some of the politicians, basically any of the ones that were debating, just try to get them to see my face and see that I am a person and I am grieving and this issue has basically reflected all across Canada.

What do you think of how political this has become? How closely are you watching the politics of it and what do you think of that?

The politics of it, I’m not even watching. To me, this isn’t even a political issue. Somebody clearly messed up, made a mistake, and I’m just trying to get this mistake reversed.

The government says that at this point, and this is their claim, they don’t have the power to intervene, but they have asked for a review of how this happened. What’s your response to that?

It’s a start, I guess. I’m a lot further right now then I was a week ago. A little bit more time’s not going to hurt and hopefully, during that time frame, we can come to the conclusion that a mistake was made.

You wrote a letter to the prime minister. Can you tell us what you were trying to say in that letter?

I was basically just trying to get him to, in a sense, have a feeling from a father to a father as opposed to being a politician. I wanted to see if I could kind of touch him a little. It’s not about politics.

Have you received a response at all?

Not currently. I am hoping within the next little while.

Why are you hoping? Has someone given you an indication that you will be getting a response?

No. Just, it’d be the right thing to do. That’s all I want.

What is your message? I know it was very eloquently written in the letter. Are you hoping for them to intervene in this case or do you want a wider look at how something like this could happen?

Both, really. To take a good look at the situation at hand and go through everything. It’s clear that there’s some form of injustice going on and I would like them to look into that and then potentially start changing some laws.

Do you trust the justice system here?

As it stands, I had great faith in them after they had put the two killers away, but after learning that there’s stuff going on in the background without being notified, it kind of hurts. I do have a little bit of insecurities.

Would a notification have made a difference to you either way?

I could have started the fight nine months ago, which could be at an end by now.

Tori Stafford’s father, Rodney Stafford, was in Ottawa Wednesday to push for his daughter’s killer to be transferred out of a healing lodge and back to prison. 5:38

Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

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Federal review of child killer’s transfer ‘a good start’ says Tori Stafford’s father

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Tori Stafford’s father says a review ordered by the federal Liberal government into how child killer Terri-Lynne McClintic was transferred from an Ontario prison to a Corrections Canada-run Indigenous healing lodge in Saskatchewan is « a good start. »

« I’m very happy, » he told CBC News Thursday. « We need to get Terri-Lynne back to where she belongs. » 

McClintic pleaded guilty in 2010 to the 2009 killing of eight-year-old Tori Stafford.

McClintic and her former boyfriend Michael Rafferty were convicted of the killing in separate trials after the pair abducted the girl from near her Woodstock, Ont. school, driving her first to Guelph, then to a farmer’s field south of Mount Forest where Tori was sexually assaulted and beaten to death before the pair hid her body in a clandestine grave. 

CBC News has confirmed through a government official that Terri-Lynne McClintic is Indigenous, but Rodney Stafford said her cultural background has no effect in the way he feels. 

Terri-Lynne McClintic is serving a life sentence after pleading guilty to the first-degree murder of Tori Stafford in April 2010. (Canadian Press)

« None whatsoever, » he said. « She’s human. She’s no different than anybody else, it doesn’t matter what your ethnicity is, she’s a child killer. »

« She’s living it up in this healing lodge when there’s people within the prison system that are doing more time and harder time for lesser crimes. » 

Review ordered

Rodney Stafford first spoke to CBC News on Tuesday, expressing his anger after he learned McClintic had been transferred to a healing lodge in southern Saskatchewan.

On Wednesday, the controversy exploded in the House of Commons, with the opposition Conservative leader Andrew Scheer accusing Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of « not doing his job » when he didn’t immediately order a reversal of the transfer.

Trudeau, in turn, accused Scheer’s Conservatives of playing political games with the tragedy because McClintic’s transfer happened in 2014 under the then-Conservative federal government led by Stephen Harper. 

A heated exchange erupted in the HOC Wednesday over how a convicted child killer ended up in a healing lodge. 1:01

On Wednesday, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale ordered Corrections Canada officials to review McClintic’s 2014 transfer from maximum to medium security.

Victoria (Tori) Stafford disappeared after leaving her elementary school in Woodstock, Ont., on April 8, 2009. Her partially clothed remains were found more than three months later. (Canadian Press)

Canada’s eight healing lodges were built with the aim to reduce the startling rate of Indigenous incarceration in the country. While Statistics Canada counts Indigenous people as only 2.5 per cent of the general Canadian population, they make up 17.8 per cent of the country’s prison population.

Okima Ohci Healing Lodge

Rachel Park, the woman who runs Okima Ohci Healing Lodge for Aboriginal Women where McClintic is said to be housed, would not discuss individual cases due to privacy restrictions. 

« I do think that our programs are appropriate because we focus on reintegration, core programs and dealing with past abuses, physical, sexual, inter-generational trauma and addiction issues, » she said.

This image shows a pavilion located at Okima Ochi Healing Lodge for Aboriginal Women in southern Saskatchewan, the first such Corrections Canada-run facility to be established in the country. (Government of Canada)

It’s widely known that McClintic had a traumatic childhood. An unwanted child, she was given away as a baby to her mother, Carol McClintic, a nightclub stripper. The family moved every few years and McClintic attended schools in half a dozen southern Ontario communities where she was bullied because of her mother’s occupation.

McClintic was also physically and sexually abused as a child and while it’s not known when McClintic first became addicted to drugs, her experience with illegal drugs started when she was eight year old. 

Park said the Okima Ochi Healing Lodge combines regular Corrections Canada rehabilitation programming combined with traditional First Nations spiritual healing practices. 

« Research has shown that when people are participating in cultural and spiritual activities that they have a more balanced approach to healing, and so they can move forward to deal with the things that brought them into the institution. »

A 20-year-old Correctional Service of Canada study suggests healing lodges get better results than prisons when it comes to recidivism. The study looked at 412 Indigenous offenders who were admitted to three Corrections-run healing lodges and found about 70 per cent of prisoners completed the program.

Among them, only six per cent returned to federal custody after committing a new offence while on conditional release. Compare that to the mainstream prison system, which saw a recidivism rate of 11 per cent in 1998. 

‘Victoria will never have that’

Still Stafford said it’s important to his family that McClintic stay in a maximum security facility because, from his perspective, that’s justice being served. 

« She received a 25-year sentence and in less than 10 years she’s out living in a healing lodge in open concept, around families and she’s able to have a life basically. » 

« Victoria will never have that, » said Stafford, referring to his deceased daughter.  

Stafford says he plans to travel to Ottawa in November where he’ll ask the federal government to change the law so that people convicted of killing the vulnerable, such as children, the disabled or the elderly are not allowed to leave maximum security prisons as a condition of their sentence. 

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Tony Clement says cases like transfer of Tori Stafford’s killer to healing lodge may lead to vigilantism

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Cases such as the transfer of Tori Stafford‘s killer out of prison and into an aboriginal healing lodge risk eroding public faith in the justice system and may lead to people taking matters into their own hands.

That’s what Conservative justice critic Tony Clement told reporters Wednesday morning in Ottawa. He said the Liberals should step in amid the news that Terri-Lynne McClintic, one of the two people convicted in the 2009 murder of eight-year-old Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford, was being moved from a maximum-security prison to an aboriginal healing lodge.

That case, and a decision by Veterans Affairs Canada officials to let a convicted murderer receive veterans benefits despite never having served, are examples of cases that Clement says the government is failing to take seriously.

READ MORE: Tori Stafford’s family says woman convicted in her murder moved from prison to healing lodge

“This is a problem that is going to erode a feeling in our country that justice is being served and when that erodes, people take matters into their own hands,” he said when asked about the case while arriving on Parliament Hill.

“I’m not sanctioning that, I’m not calling for that. I’m merely saying when justice is not done, when people see the system is not serving the victims and their families, people get very upset and that’s not good for our society.”

When asked to clarify specifically what he meant, Clement said, “vigilantism.”

“It actually promotes vigilantism in our society.”

WATCH BELOW: McClintic wraps up testimony at Rafferty trial






Terri-Lynne McClintic pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in 2010 while Michael Rafferty was convicted in a 2012 jury trial for Stafford’s first-degree murder.

Both are serving life sentences with no eligibility for parole for 25 years.

McClintic also pleaded guilty to assaulting a fellow inmate in 2012.

WATCH BELOW: Rodney Stafford’s victim impact statement






According to the Correctional Service Canada website, the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge where McClintic has been moved “was built with the intention of housing incarcerated Aboriginal women.”

It can hold about 60 people in its open campus facility and is located on the Nekaneet First Nation.

What is not clear at this time is whether McClintic is aboriginal or whether the lodge is open to convicts who are not aboriginal.

WATCH BELOW: Tara McDonald’s victim impact statement






Global News has requested clarification from Correctional Services Canada about what the criteria are for moving an inmate there.

In an interview with CTV’s Power Play on Tuesday night, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale was also asked about the case.

Specifically, he was asked why McClintic is being moved now after serving just eight years in maximum-security prison when she is not due to be eligible for parole for years.

“The prison management officials have determined this is the best way to both rectify her bad practices in the past and also to keep the public safe,” he said.

Clement criticized the transfer on Twitter as bringing McClintic to a place with “no walls, but cooking and workshops.”

He also told reporters the decision was “swerving away from the sentence” handed down by the judge.

“The fact of the matter is this so-called punishment does not fit the crime,” he said.

“If she’s taking undue advantage of a program that is not meant for her, that’s not right.”

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Tori Stafford’s family angry after child killer sent to Saskatchewan healing lodge

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The family of murdered schoolgirl Tori Stafford says they’re angry after receiving official notice from Corrections Canada that one of the girl’s killers has been transferred to a minimum security aboriginal healing lodge in Saskatchewan.

Terri-Lynne McClintic, 28, pleaded guilty in 2010 to first-degree murder in the death of Stafford, the eight year old whose disappearance captured the attention of the country for months as police scoured the countryside in what was then the largest-ever search for a missing person in Canada. 

Corrections Canada would not confirm McClintic’s current whereabouts citing privacy reasons, but a spokeswoman said McClintic is serving « an indeterminate life sentence » for first-degree murder and won’t be eligible for parole until May 19, 2031. 

Tori Stafford was eight years-old when she disappeared in 2009. Her body was later found in a clandestine grave in a farmer’s field about 100 kilometres north of Woodstock, Ont.

McClintic lured the young girl

When Tori vanished while walking home from school in Woodstock, Ont. on April 8, 2009, it was McClintic who lured her into the waiting car of Michael Rafferty.

Rafferty, McClintic’s then-boyfriend, is also serving a life sentence for first-degree murder in the little girl’s death. The pair drove the girl first to Guelph and later Mount Forest, 100 kilometres north of Woodstock, where Rafferty sexually assaulted and murdered the girl before the pair buried her body in a clandestine grave in a farmer’s field. 

Terri-Lynne McClintic and Michael Rafferty have both been convicted of first-degree murder in the death of Victoria Stafford. (Canadian Press)

Stafford’s family say they recently received official notice from the federal government that McClintic has been transferred, from  the Grand Valley Institution for Women, a maximum security facility in Kitchener, Ont., to the Okima Ohci Healing Lodge for Aboriginal Women on Nekaneet First Nation in southern Saskatchewan. 

Created in 1995 and located 400 kilometres from the nearest Corrections Canada facility, the Okima Ohci Healing Lodge is unique in the prison system, according to the federal government’s website. 

The facility was, according Corrections Canada, « built with the intention of housing incarcerated Aboriginal women. The focus on ‘Healing’ was to be the priority for Aboriginal women offenders. »

« The practices, culture and values of the Nekaneet is taught to the residents, » the website said, noting that prisoners are taught, « empowerment, meaningful and responsible choices, respect and dignity, supportive environment and shared responsibility. »

Ontario Provincial Police detective Jim Smyth, right, has been praised for eliciting a confession from Terri-Lynne McClintic, left, about her involvement in the death of Tori Stafford.

While Indigenous women get priority at the open-concept facility, « non-Aboriginal offenders can also live at a healing lodge. However, they must choose to follow Aboriginal programming and spirituality. In all cases, we thoroughly assess an offender’s risk to public safety before a decision is made to move him or her to a healing lodge, » Corrections Canada spokeswoman Esther Mailhot said Monday in an email to CBC News. 

Child killer told court about difficult upbringing

McClintic spent days under the glare of the national media spotlight when she testified at her former boyfriend’s murder trial. During those proceedings, the court heard about her troubled childhood, one where she was abandoned by her birth mother, who gave her to a fellow stripper named Carol McClintic.

They moved every couple of years and McClintic went to many different schools, where she was bullied for being a stripper’s daughter and her attendance was a problem.

The court heard how McClintic began taking illegal drugs when she was only eight-years-old, often wrote out violent fantasies in letters and journals and once microwaved her dog. 

McClintic was convicted in 2012 for beating up another inmate in prison and reportedly said she regretted the incident, but only for not causing the woman worse injuries. 

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